Recently went to Manresa with 5 close friends in early Feb. The quick take is, "if CP did a tasting menu like FL but from left field." Very good service but not overdone. Mostly local ingredients, excellent technique, but very unusual combo (pine needle ice cream with grapefruit granita, gamay gelee) that work despite what you might think. Environment - California, casual but well done.
Had the tasting menu with amuses before hand. 2.5 bottles of wine. Here's some notes cribbed off a fellow diner, with my notes in prentices.
Storrs Gewurztraminer (very pleasant, very reasonably priced, Monterey white)
Red pepper gelee + Black olive madeleine (nice starter, teeny-size, dime-size)
Molten foie gras cube, chestnut powder (deep fried, bullion cube size, big surprise/winner)
Dungenous crab + pear salad in beggar's purse (subtle dumping, very good)
Soft egg with sour cherry vinegar + maple (very nice, familiar rich, soothing, good way to start in on the meal)
Varner Chardonnay 2005 (another very pleasant wine, Santa Cruz)
Amberjack + scallop + octopus (sashimi, delicate, slightly marinated, excellent)
Monterey bay spot prawn, citrus foam (hard to go wrong with this, prawned show through)
Abalone, foie gras, sea urchin in a tidal pool (very unusual mix, excellent, hard to describe, tidal pool is a good description)
Wild steelhead salmon, broccoli fondant, cucumber & dill sauce (another unusual dish prep wise, the fish was very rare yet not chewy, excellent)
Roessler Peregrine Pinot Noir 2005
Pork belly, black truffle, celery root veloute (familiar yet not, nice starter for this portion...rich yet familiar, big winner)
Veal sweetbreads, wheat berries, parsnip (pan seared or roasted, great combo, wheat berries a nice earthy surprise to sweetbreads and parsnip)
New York strip aged 40 days, red thumb potato roasted in hay, black
cherry mushrooms? (excellent, satisfying way to end savory courses, the hay roasted potatoes were again out of left field...the sweetness showed through, hard to describe)
Pine needle ice cream, grapefruit granita, gamay gelee (totally left field as in W T F, yet it worked, great palette cleanser)
Beet sorbet, goat cheese Baverois?, crispy corn, wood sorrell foam (very good, frankly don't remember it much at this point...)
Chicory chocolate mousse, beignet, fried banana, chicory ice cream (excellent, a banana split with a donut if you will)
Chocolate-Armagnac truffles (don't remember, on overload)
Strawberry gelee + chocolate madeleines (nice way of going full circle)
The thing about Manresa is the food doesn't reference anything in particular. You can see French and Asian influences but none overpower. This "might" be the next step in haute California cuisine -- excellent prep, well-thought out, surprising yet using many local ingredients. Very delicate prep with an intellectual edge, or an edge to curiosity and surprise. There were no losers in any dish. In the ranking of tasting menus and Michelin stars, it's right up there with French Laundry..not better, not worse just different in an unexpected way. Meal took about 4 hours.
My only observation is Manresa might best be experienced in the late spring or early summer with their garden is ramped up given the use of fresh ingredients. Next visit will definitely be during spring or early summer.
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